Do you ever feel like you’ve been a little lost, and then suddenly, everything lines up for you. The person you spoke to told you something you didn’t really think you needed to hear applies so directly to the growth of life, or reboots the drive you’ve lost for a passion, or perhaps it’s as simple as a song that made you think of a loved one comes on to reinforce your power to continue on.
I felt all of that last week in Alberta, Canada. I had recently felt down and burnt out. Spread like a scrape of butter trying to coat a piece of toast. Any analogy you could think of, I had one for what I was feeling. Burning the candle on three ends, completely exhausted with constant goings. New York can do that to you. Life moves so quickly, work hours are long and you feel the need to constantly keep up and stay on top of every opportunity the city can offer you.
When I arrived in Canada, I was a bit overwhelmed. As an inherent extravert, I propped myself at a Starbucks to answer untouched e-mails and waited for more of a group to build so I wouldn’t have to exert myself to small talk for hours.
The minute we arrived at Blue Brona Wilderness Camp, the sun still warm and a whisper of fall from the left over chill of the mountain morning, I felt looser. The trip was put on by a on online creative community called Socality. Its roots and basis are to bring creative people together.
Through workshops and interactive talks surrounding creating, all interspersed with hikes through the mountains, past glass lakes and walks through large trees fading to their vibrant yellows, disconnected from the constant pressures of wifi, and churning out content that I felt so detached from I needed this trip more than I could have imagined to bring me back to life.
Constantly surrounded by genuine, kind and supportive people who were all working together to show their beautiful world through their own eyes was magnificent to observe. One evening, as the sun was setting over a field, our bus pulled over. And in the excitement of catching the last glow of the day’s sun as it dipped below the mountains, I forgot my camera. I watched 40 incredibly talented creatives work and capture their friends and the earth all at the same time. And though in an image, it looks like that one person could the only one in the field, 40 others were capturing these fleeting moments in a most beautiful way.
Many moments will stand out to me and continue to fuel me.
The first: I raised my hand to ask a question about burnout to a panel of creatives and peers. One photographer and I had been following each other for a while before heading to camp, and daily I am honored that he appreciates my work because of outstanding he is. Bryan Castillo, whose work I admire so greatly told me and a group of about 50 people that he loves my photography. As different as what we capture may be, he told me and everyone else listening that I was a joy to be around, with so much energy and capture my city so beautifully. Which lead to realization: I have created a beautiful life for myself and capture these moments to share with others not as a thought of “who the hell cares where I eat” but more that they appreciate the places I go because of the way I capture the beauty in it. The calming colors and positioning that I have an eye for.
Third: The president of The Giving Keys gave a talk on our last night at camp. A Forbes 30 under 30, she was working at a company whose sole purpose was to give homeless people jobs. She said something that spoke so directly to everything I was feeling that I might as well have been smacked in the face with flying letters that made up her sentences. She asked if you’ve ever grown so fast and everything’s moving in one direction that you nearly can’t keep up— that even trying to take a minute to slow down and figure out how you can apply what you’ve learned to better yourself seems impossible, but you know the growth is positive, but you don’t have time to digest it? I have never felt someone sum up exactly how I was feeling in words until that moment. I was so sucked in. That was exactly what this week had allowed me to do. Digest my growth and figure out how to move forward.
Another: Creator and founder of Socality, Scott Bakken spoke and right away asked us all the question: ‘What is your why?’ tons of people will tell you ‘you’re different don’t do what everyone else is doing, find a way to stand out.’ I have constantly questioned what the **** that meant. How on earth do you find a way to separate yourself from another person in such an outstanding way that people notice. A friend of mine decided instead of taking pictures of food, she was going to take pictures about food—meaning what goes into making it, who the person behind the food is, where they present it, their home, and everything else that goes along with it. Which I thought was beautiful. How was I going to create that beauty in my own work? After the next moment, I found it.
Back to the rush of New York was like sitting in a car going reverse at 0-100 miles per hour. Throwing myself back into the pressure, speed dodging tourists and the flood of work I’d rerun to was like an ambush of emotions. I’d come so far only to feel like none of what I’d done was worth it. Now, sitting in a Brooklyn cafe under gray skies, light rain misting the speckled pavement, and an open storefront window with light 70’s music playing, I continue to feel the wholeness I felt in Canada. Constantly reminding myself how important that time was to my soul is important, and every time I take the time to feel my heart swell with all that I’ve learned continues to help me grow and focus on what steps to take next.
Later that night, I told her how much her words spoke to me and how I can’t wait to go home with a new purpose. She took off her key she was wearing and gave it to me. The words on it were let go. Thinking about that moment so aligned with what I needed at the moment was something I’ll never forget. It moved me and everything made so much sense in that one moment. All the pressure I’d put on myself to be exceptional at work, at my craft, to find a partner to love, all at once was an impossible task I put on myself. I am young, what on earth was my rush to complete my growth in a year? Returning home I felt less pressure, and with new purpose and passion, my journey in life began to make sense to me again.